Bus Eireann customers face wait for smart card system
BUS Eireann customers will not be able to use the long-awaited public transport smartcard until the middle of next year.
The €55m 'Leap' card was officially launched yesterday, but only users of Dublin Bus, Luas and Iarnrod Eireann will be able to travel in the Dublin area without having to buy tickets for each leg of their journey.
Smartcard users prepay and wave cards at magnetic readers at each end of their journey. A computer system calculates the appropriate fare and deducts it from the customer's account.
But the system will not be rolled out to Bus Eireann and private coach companies until next year, and holders of annual travel cards will also have to wait.
Public Transport and Commuting Minister Alan Kelly admitted the project, first mooted a decade ago, had taken too long to deliver.
"It has taken too long but we have delivered it on time and within our budget. I'm just delighted we've delivered it within a matter of months of taking office."
He added that the first 500 people to sign up to use the card through a dedicated website from today will be given €20 worth of free travel.
In return, they will have to give feedback to the National Transport Authority on how it works.
"We will be looking at fully rolling it out next year," he said.
The card will be publicly available to all commuters before Christmas and commuters who switch to the new system will benefit from lower fares, likely to be around 10pc.
Work will begin fitting Bus Eireann and private coaches with smartcard readers early in the new year.
The idea of integrated ticketing was first suggested by Mary O'Rourke in 1999. The Railway Procurement Agency took over the project in 2002.